The wide array of meat products enticingly displayed at the butcher shop makes us want to just load our shopping basket without even examining the labels. You cannot pick up meat in a hurry as you might end up with old meat that’s on its way out.
When buying pre-packaged meat, you need to check that the
- package is sealed properly
- expiry date is still valid
- package is frozen well
- meat is not purple or brown in colour and the fat is not yellowed (ideally meat should be a fresh pink with the bones a bright white)
- package does not give out any foul odour
- package is ‘organic’ certified so you are sure where the meat is from
- package is clearly labelled with a description of the cut of meat, weight, price, packaging and expiry dates
If you want your meat to last longer and to also save on money, buy a roast instead of strip steaks. Slice your meat only when you are ready to cook it for the best taste. Mince your beef at home just before preparation as packaged ground beef tends to be tougher because of the lack of airflow.
Carry a cooler with you when you go meat shopping to keep the meat chilled until you get home. Follow the storage recommendations on the labels to make sure the meat stays fresh and lasts longer. Store your meat separately to avoid dripping onto other food items in the freezer. Also, never store your cooked meat dishes with the raw meat.
It is advisable to take the meat out of its packaging and divide the meat into smaller portions and transfer it to smaller containers that will afford some airflow. By doing this, you only have to defrost the quantity you need for each meal and not defrost the whole package only to freeze again. But remember to stick a note on each portion the expiry date.
If the meat is vacuum packed, then you can safely store it unopened for 4 to 6 weeks. Ideal storage temperatures in your refrigerator should be set at 4 to 5 degrees Celsius and the freezer should be maintained at 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.
The best way to thaw your meat would be to transfer it to the refrigerator from the freezer for as long as it takes to defrost completely. This does take much longer but as it is the safest way to thaw meat, it would be a good idea to plan ahead. Steaks can be taken out at night if you are planning to cook it the next day.
Do not re-freeze raw meat after thawing as it affects the quality of the meat; instead, cook the meat and then freeze it.
By paying attention to labels and storage instructions, you can be assured of buying high quality meat at a butcher that stays fresh longer. This means that you not only eat healthier but also save a little money in the long run.